So much rap music comes out all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, as a way to help keep up with all of it, here’s a roundup of the 8 rap albums from March 2023 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven't spent enough time with some great March rap albums that aren't on this list. What were some of your favorites of last month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order).

Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA, SCARING THE HOES
loading...

JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - Scaring The Hoes
PEGGY/AWAL

Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA both have reputations for making loud, erratic rap music, and their two collaborations on Danny's 2019 album uknowhatimsayin¿ were major highlights, so the idea of an entire collaborative album from these two sounded perfect. And it's just as perfect in execution as it is on paper. Produced by JPEGMAFIA, the album ranges from hyperpop to glitch to industrial to flipped soul samples and more, and Danny and Peggy have boundless energy as they bounce off of each other over these blaring beats. The album's only guest appearance comes from one of the most exciting newer rappers around, redveil, who provides "Kingdom Hearts Key" with its smooth coda.

--

ICECOLDBISHOP
loading...

ICECOLDBISHOP - Generational Curse
Epic

South Central LA rapper ICECOLDBISHOP has been on the rise for a few years now--having collaborated with the likes of slowthai, Rico Nasty, Denzel Curry, Boldy James, and more--and now he finally put out his debut album, Generational Curse. Across the album, he proves to be an extremely charismatic rapper, sounding like a cross between all three Flatbush Zombies and Kendrick Lamar at his most theatrical, and the air of desperation in his voice really matches the subject matter. Tragic death shows up at every turn on Generational Curse, whether it's from drug addiction or shootings, and ICECOLDBISHOP often sounds like he's grappling with grief in real time. Like so many great rappers before him, he's a natural-born storyteller, capable of opening the world's eyes to the poverty, violence, and institutional racism that plague neighborhoods like the one Bishop grew up in. He does it with the level of command of a person that's looking you directly in the eye the entire time, and his ear for beats, melodies, and arrangements is just as gripping as his bleak stories.

--

Navy Blue
loading...

Navy Blue - Ways of Knowing
Def Jam

Navy Blue has been a staple of underground, out-of-the-box rap music for a few years now, and he's now poised to reach more people than ever with Ways of Knowing, his Def Jam debut. It's not just coming out on a bigger label; it's also a little brighter and little less complex than Navy Blue's previous work, without sacrificing the elements that made him such a unique artist. It was largely produced by his longtime friend and collaborator Budgie, who Navy Blue says "challenges [him] to simplify" his writing process, and it's not as thematically dark as some of Navy Blue's previous projects. "I don’t really want to be remembered as this stoic guy who’s perpetually reflecting on my trauma and Black plight, you know?," Navy Blue says. "I want to make something that makes people smile out of joy, rather than smile in grief." Ways of Knowing definitely makes the listener smile, with remarkable production that ranges from jazz-rap to chipmunk soul to reggae, and gripping storytelling from Navy Blue. As on past projects, Ways of Knowing proves Navy Blue is a master of rap traditions but not a follower. He knows just how to take time-tested formulas and make them his own.

--

Larry June
loading...

Larry June & The Alchemist - The Great Escape
Freeminded Records/ALC/EMPIRE

Larry June is a San Francisco rapper who's been really taking off these past few years, and he's already got more albums, mixtapes, and EPs than the average person would ever be able to keep track of. He often picks beats that are steeped in West Coast tradition, but he's got love for the East Coast too. In 2020, he did a project with NYC producer Harry Fraud (Keep Going), and now he's got an entire album produced by The Alchemist, who's more responsible than almost anyone for keeping the sound of New York's boom bap era alive today. Larry and Alc have worked together before--including on Jay Worthy's 2020 track "Rainy Night In SF," when Larry appeared on Curren$y and The Alchemist's 2022 album Continuance, and when Alc produced a track on Larry's 2022 album Spaceships on the Blade--but this is their first time doing an entire project together. Both do what they do best, and they prove to have a ton of chemistry. Alchemist's beats are smokey and hypnotic, and Larry matches the mood with bars that are both laid-back and perfectly in the pocket. The sunset-colored hues of the "60 Days" video set the tone for the entire album. It's loaded with cool guests; Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Boldy James, Evidence, Jay Worthy, and members of Slum Village sound as great over Alchemist beats as you'd expect, and Big Sean shows up with a verse that proves he can compete with the classicistic rap underground when he really wants to. The Great Escape is yet another addition to Alchemist's seemingly-endless recent string of great albums produced entirely by him, and it feels like it could be one that turns a lot of new people onto Larry too. If you've yet to dive into his already-extensive catalog, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

--

Zelooperz
loading...

Zelooperz - Microphone Fiend
Bruiser Brigade

Since releasing his excellent 2021 album Van Goghs Left Ear, the eccentric Detroit rapper Zelooperz took an R&B/soul-inspired detour on 2022's Get WeT.Radio and then dropped the brief Might Not Make It EP this past January, but now he returns with his lengthiest, most expansive project since Van Goghs, Microphone Fiend. It's got production on multiple songs from frequent collaborator Dilip, alongside 454, Chuck Inglish, Zelooperz himself, and a few others, and it just has three guests: Young Coco, the aforementioned 454, and R&B singerJessie Robbie. Not that it needs many guests; Zelooperz himself has like six different voices and personas through the album, constantly keeping you on your toes and making unpredictable left turns. Microphone Fiend has the raw energy of a DIY punk band and the scope of a peak-era Kanye record; it's some of his most ambitious work yet.

--

B. Cool-Aid
loading...

B. Cool-Aid - Leather Blvd.
Lex Records

B. Cool-Aid is the duo of rapper Pink Siifu and producer Ahwlee, but Leather Blvd.--their first full-length album since their 2017 debut LP BRWN--is much more multi-faceted and has much more going on than what you might expect from a "duo album." That's because Siifu and Ahwlee recruited a collective of musicians operating in the spirit of the Soulquarians, the many-membered group of musicians who contributed to classic albums like The Roots' Things Fall Apart, Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, and Common's Electric Circus. They brought in DJ Harrison, leader of jazz/hip hop band Butcher Brown, to create original, live-instrumentation pieces that Ahwlee could apply his sample-heavy style to. "Over the years, I’ve been hella in the crates," Ahwlee said in press materials for the album. "Just sample, sample, sample [but] I’ve [also] been working on my own musicianship over the past two or three years. So having them [Butcher Brown] jump on it was just inspiration." They also brought in a slew of other vocalists, ranging from forebears to peers, including Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets, V.C.R, Liv.e, MoRuf, Denmark Vessey, Quelle Chris, Nita Darling, Big Rube of Dungeon Family, Jimetta Rose, Devin Morrison, Foushée, and more. The result is a lush, communal album that toes the line between jazz-rap and neo-soul. It does justice to the '90s-era albums that paved the way for B. Cool-Aid, but Siifu, Ahwlee, and their friends make it their own.

--

Che Noir
loading...

Che Noir & Big Ghost Ltd - Noir or Never
Poetic Movement

Having released two albums in 2022, Buffalo rapper Che Noir is now back with a new project, entirely produced by Big Ghost Ltd, who's fresh off producing an entire new Rome Streetz project (and who's also worked frequently with Conway the Machine). Big Ghost still works within his usual boom bap-centric world on Noir or Never, but he goes for something a little more sweeping and cinematic, and Che mixes it up between knockout punchlines and edge-of-your-seat storytelling. Guests include Flee Lord, Skyzoo, 7xvethegenius, Ransom, D-Styles, and Planet Asia.

--

slowthai, UGLY
loading...

slowthai - UGLY
Method/Interscope

UK rapper slowthai has flirted with multiple styles of music from the start, but on UGLY, he's taking that to new levels. He sings and shouts on it as much as he raps, over a constantly-shapeshifting backdrop of grime, punk, experimental pop, noisy electronics, and more. It feels like he's aiming for something close to (past collaborators) Gorillaz, but instead of doing it by recruiting a bunch of guest vocalists, he's playing almost all the characters himself (with a little help from Fontaines D.C., Shygirl, Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye, and others). UGLY is also his most personal album to date. As a rapper who came out of the gate with an anti-Britain concept album and became known for his stage antics and irreverent humor, slowthai peels the layers back with UGLY, shining a spotlight on the person that's always been there behind the madness.

--

Honorable Mentions
03 Greedo - Halfway There
AJ Suede & Televangel - Parthian Shots
Chunky - Somebody's Child
Conway The Machine & Jae Skeese — Pain Provided Profit
DJ Drama - It's Really Like That
EST Gee - MAD
G Perico & DJ Drama - Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz
Hit-Boy - Surf or Drown
Jae Skeese - Abolished Uncertainties
Juicy J - Mental Trillness
Knowledge The Pirate - 5 Lbs Of Pressure
Kool Keith & Real Bad Man - Serpent
Kota the Friend & Statik Selektah - To See A Sunset
Louis IV - Earthling
Luh Tyler - My Vision
Mach-Hommy & Tha God Fahim - Notorious Dump Legends: Volume 2
Money Man - Red Eye
Recognize Ali - Back To Mecca II
Rigz - Heal In
RXK Nephew - Till I'm Dead
Quin NFN - Never On Time
Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale (deluxe)

Browse Best Rap Albums for past months.

More From Brooklyn Vegan